The Vancouver Sun reported that the news of the closure, which was effective immediately, was delivered by phone around 1 p.m. today to the national office of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, which represents the station’s employees.
“I was in total shock,” Christine Collins, UCTE national president, told the Sun.
The federal government announced last year that it would close the station on English Bay and have the approximately 300 calls the station receives annually handled by the Sea Island base in Richmond, 17 nautical miles south. According to the Vancouver Sun, the government plans to install a new inshore rescue boat off Stanely Park that will go into service in May and operate for six months out of the year, crewed by one Coast Guard manager and two students who will be paid between $14 and $18 an hour.
The closure, which is expected to save about $800,000 annually, was widely opposed by Vancouver’s mayor and city council, provincial officials and boating industry leaders. Among the most vocal opponents of the closure has been Fred Moxey, who was commander of the Kitsilano station for more than 30 years.
Moxey has warned that closing down the base will cost lives. It takes at least 35 minutes to get from Sea Island to the Kitsilano area by boat, he said, and Sea Island crews are often in the Gulf Islands or assisting the U.S. Coast Guard, which could result in response times of several hours.
“If you have someone fall overboard in the middle of English Bay and go unconscious, that person would have to wait 35 minutes to be rescued,” he told Three Sheets Northwest last year. “This is people losing their lives.”